Dear Uncle George Takei…

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I love me some George Takei. Who wouldn’t? He’s witty, inspirational, and I’m pretty damn sure that unlike Shatner he’s still rocking his original hair. He’s everyone’s funny gay Uncle George who rules facebook with a fabulously witty fist. 

But we have to call out bullshit where it lives. He has an enormous audience and he shared this video with the caption “Evils lurk in both regular and diet sodas, but this eye-opening video did steer me away from the sugary stuff.”

Evil. 

Hitler was evil. This is a beverage. 

What you see occurring here is a simple reduction followed by possibly burning the sugar. This can happen with any liquid with sugar in it. Sauces made with a wine reduction look like this too, the main difference? We’re not used to seeing the water evaporated out of coca cola before it’s burnt. 

If we want to start deeming all sweet drinks that are capable of forming a reduction “evil,” we’re going to have to go a lot further than Coca-Cola. We’ll have to take a swipe at sunshine in a bottle, orange juice:

So should you live on either of these? Probably not because calorie per calorie, not even orange juice (and definitely not Coca Cola) is nutritionally a great option all the time. The coke syrup might look “evil” after you boil it down, but so do a lot of things, including oh-so-healthy orange juice. As a treat within a balanced diet? Uncle George, coke isn’t evil. 

It’s sweet and fabulous, like our favorite facebook uncle. 

Oh Myyy.

 

-Science Babe

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56 Comments

  1. spot on with anything containing sugar. And George most likely does not author most of his posts.

    Also loved your article on Food Babe!!

    Great job from a new fan!

    • }}} And George most likely does not author most of his posts.

      And this is irrelevant.
      1) The facts are still what they are, and so SciBabe’s debunking is accurate and relevant.
      2) He is, by putting them up (or allowing them to be put up) giving his imprimatur to what they say. He should make an effort to make it clear when the science and facts are doubtful, when he posts something up for its humor value.

  2. I thought the point of the Coke boiling video was to visually demonstrate the AMOUNT of sugar in a regular Coke, versus that in a Coke Zero. I didn’t think it had anything to do with the sugar turning black.

    • couldn’t you just read the label to see how much more sugar there is in coke than coke zero? would seem pointless to boil it and reduce it to sludge to prove something that’s written on the outside of the bottle and is obvious to anyone with a lick of common sense.

  3. Thanks for calling out these ridiculous coke-reductions. When I was a kid, my father worked for a Woolworths-type chain that had old fashioned lunch counters. He used to let me fill the soda machines. How is soda made from them? With a live mixture of seltzer and syrup. The gallon containers of coke syrup looked just like this.

  4. I do not know if it is still available but about 20 years ago when my oldest son was nauseous an older family member suggested Coca-Cola syrup. It came in a small bottle (four ounces if I remember correctly) from the pharmacist. Worked like a charm.

    Videos like this always puzzle me when they are shared by intelligent people. Especially since there is no polite way to ask, “Ya didn’t know coke had sugar in it?”

    • I don’t know about the availability Coca-Cola syrup specifically, but you can get cola and a host of other soft drink syrups from SodaStream USA. I don’t know how their concentration compares to that of the syrup you got twenty years ago. Fun trivia: Pepsi-Cola gets its name from the fact that it used to be sold as a remedy for upset stomachs. Pepsi has the root at Pepcid (OTC medicine), and dyspepsia (digestive upset).

      As for people not knowing there’s sugar in Coke. Actually, they know there’s sugar in it, but they may not realize just how much there is until they see the video.

  5. The amount of sugar in Coke, and its glycemic index are problems. But, the fact that you can make a reduction with it is pointless. But I believe we should be careful with foods that have really high glycemic indexes based on their effects on the body. The WHO has recommended Low-GI to help fight heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

    We should be careful of the post hoc ergo hoc fallacy when talking about the introduction of high-GI foods and obesity epidemics, but there’s a decent amount of peer-reviewed research on this and the WHO recommendation comes as a strong incentive for me to avoid it.

  6. I would love to read a conversation about food/exercise/health/science, between you and Miss Krista over at stumptuous.com

    It would be awesome. Please consider it!

  7. Whenever someone boils some sugary drink and uses the shock factor to try and scare people into not drinking it, I do two things. 1: sigh, because as someone who grew up in with Italian grandmothers and was generally surrounded by good food, I know what happens when you heat sugar. 2: giggle, because I want to show those idiots how candy is made.

  8. I thought George’s comments were to point out just how much sugar there is in regular coke compared to diet coke. Yes, the other video shows there are also a lot of sugars in orange juice.
    I’ve heard it said you shouldn’t eat too much fruit or drink too many fruit juices because it raises the tri-glyceride levels in your blood leading to weight gain. I note on your twitter page you say you like ‘diet’ coke for preference.
    I agree “evil” is overdoing it though common enough parlance amongst people who havn’t had direct experience of true evil.

  9. I’m sorry, but you’d really have to have your head in a whole to think that coke, or any other soda for that matter, isn’t generally bad for you. With or without sugar the high acidic content ruins your teeth, and have you heard of diabetes? I’ll have to go with Uncle George on this one.

  10. Hey, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the point of the video to see the actual volume of sugar in a Coke bottle rather than ‘look! you’re putting this nasty looking stuff in your body!’? And I’m no chemist (or related, for that matter), so I will take your word for it if i happen to be wrong, but that looks like quite a bit of sugar for a 500ml (rough estimate from observation) drink, which is something people might not be aware of and might want to understand when making a choice as simple and common as ‘what to drink’.

  11. Reductions are delicious. Such as veal stock reduction, balsamic reduction, and any stew, just to list a few. Was this video meant to inform people that Coke Zero has less sugar that regular Coca Cola? Because, obviously, it’s not implied by the name, right? Ugh

  12. oh, my

    they’ve discovered candy making!

    I don’t know much about making candy, but I do know beer brewers rely on this caramelization and Maillard reactions to achieve certain flavor profiles in some styles of beer. Most notably Scottish Ales.

  13. Wow! you boil out the water and you take it back to it being Coke syrup which is what they put in the dispenser and mix it with carbonated water.

    Its actually how McDonald’s and other restaurants cheat you on what they serve you to save money. If you’ve ever wondered why your soda (Any soda) out of the self serve dispenser or any of the dispensers tastes thin that because the company is skimping on the mix (more water less syrup).

  14. Thank you Sci babe for leading the way with sound science and facts!!! So refreshing! Pseudoscience and ignorance keep people from understanding the truth fully…I’ll be sharing your blog for a few doses of enlightenment when needed ( especially to my students).

    Sincerely,

    Chemical …a fellow scientist!

  15. That video any come in handy when showing people why artificial sweeteners are going to kill you. I have tried to explain many times over that it’s such a minute amount that is several times sweeter than sugar, even though it has comparable calories. That’s why aspartame is so wonderful as a sugar replacement.

  16. Whether or not Coca Cola (or OJ) is a great option depends upon the dietary and health requirements of the individual. I have ulcerative colitis, which affects both my appetite and my ability to absorb nutrition. After losing about forty pounds over two years, both my GI doctor and my nutritionist have advised me to add as much high Caloric value foods and beverages to my diet as possible, even to the point of writing a script for Ensure Clear, which is essentially fortified sugar water. For my dietary needs, Coke *is* nutritionally a great choice all the time.

  17. What exactly is the criticism of this video or George’s comment? Personally I thought the video very helpful in creating a visual for the amount of sugar in soda pop (yes, I just used the term, “soda pop.”) Once upon a time, when I was a fitness coach, I noticed that a lot of people would bet tripped up on their nutrition by liquids. Psychologically, liquids can seem, less substantive that solids. Hence the point of this video, to my mind, was to pose this question: If you wouldn’t shovel a couple fistfuls of pure sugar into your mouth, why would you drink a 12 oz coke?

  18. This is why Nimoy was the one scanning for life forms and Takei just steered the ship (and blew stuff up).

    Seriously, I find Takei’s Twitter the funniest (to be fair I don’t pay much attentio to any of them), but I’m glad we’ve got cooler heads on the WWW to educate people.

  19. The sugar in Coke is high fructose corn syrup, while it is still a sugar, it’s not the pure definition of sugar. According to my doctor there is a link between the consumption of coke and gout arthritis. What do you think Science Babe?

  20. Artificial sweeteners promote the growth of certain micro iota that have been linked to an increased risk of obesity and diabetes so diet soda isn’t any less harmful.

    • Artificial sweeteners promote the growth of certain micro iota that have been linked to an increased risk of obesity and diabetes so diet soda isn’t any less harmful.

      Even if true (I’ve not seen the studies), this does not mean what you seem to think it does. Assuming arguendo that artificial sweeteners -> micro iota -> increased risk of obesity/diabetes (and each of those links is a big question mark for me, but hey), it’s still a long leap to say that the resulting risk is equal to the risks of obesity/diabetes created by the intake of sugar, fructose, or HFCS.

  21. A better way to illustrate the crazy high sugar content in coke is to ask someone “how many packets of sugar would you have to add to a can of coke, if for some reason Coca Cola accidentally left the sugar out of your can, and you wanted it to taste like a normal can of coke?

    answer: 13 packets

    disclaimer: most paper packets of sugar like at a coffee and tea stand have about 3 grams, but some have more and some have less. Coke has 39g of sugar per 12 oz. can.

    13 packets!

    Think how sickly sweet your tea or coffee tastes if you add less than a third that much (say, 4 packets)!

  22. There’s an apocryphal story that, years ago, in response to a challenge to prepare a sauce for foie gras from ingredients on hand, Mario Batali made a reduction from Fanta orange drink…

  23. Your explanation and exposure of the ignorance of blindly accepting anything you see as “evil” is spot on. I am a Chef. I also appreciate you using our craft in your explanation. I suppose that caramel will be a target soon as well.

    I also appreciate the wit and humor in writings. I was turned on to (by) you (wink) when a friend sent me your Food Babe article last week. THANK YOU for exposing that fraud.

  24. Enjoying your blog. Love the science and humor.
    As a beauty industry professional the anti-science, “no-chemicals-in-my-skincare” faction makes my head hurt. Your blog is refreshing and entertaining so I am sharing you with my readers and clients. Keep up the good work.

  25. I was going to correct your grammar because I read this as “Elvis lurk in both regular and diet sodas…” and my first thought was ‘Actually Elvis lurks’.

    After further thought, I realised that suggesting Elvis lurks in your cola would probably be just as rational as suggesting evils lurk there.

    Love your blog too (although I realise that is an emotional response of only one individual).

  26. The Coca Cola rendering video merely proves that Coca Cola Zero is coloured flavoured water. But we already knew that.

    Thing is, why would you pay for water with bit of colour and flavour in it? Make it yourself, just add food colouring and a few drops of whatever you find in your Mom’s spice rack. Enjoy!

  27. I only drink soft drinks with sugar in it. Why? I get violently sick when consuming aspartame, cyclamate and the likes. This is not imagined, because it happens even when I don’t know a product contains said sugar substitutes. (Which was the case with sodastream cola syrup.. Even the “regular” – which for me meant “full sugar” – syrup contains a lot of artificial sweeteners. )

    What I hate is people hating on soft drinks containing sugar because it’s ‘bad for me’. Everything is bad for you if you consume it in excess!

  28. All I can think is: cocacola reduction, what could I put that on? Pork? Ice cream?
    Organic cider reduction looks pretty much the same (great on squash!) as does extra fancy balsamic vinegar reduction (grilled eggplant).

  29. …Do we want to give honorable mention because that sugar is high fructose, and that bypasses a lot of metabolic regulation?

  30. This all reminds me of that recipe decades ago when you dropped a chicken into the CrockPot and then poured in a can of Coke for seasoning. A different take on the wine reduction, to be sure.

  31. I can boil engine oil down and reduce it to tar, it is still not good for me.

    Coke is aspartame or alternatively, processed sugar and both are poisons if you eat too much.

  32. Perhaps Uncle George was thinking of the STNG episode “Skin of Evil.” The murderer of Security Chief Tasha Yar often resembled the Coke reduction.

  33. FINALLY SOME REASONABLE VOICE COMING FROM A REASONABLE BRAIN IN THE “FEAR MONGERING CYBERSPACE” THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TOO CALL ALL THESE FEAR MONGERS TOO THE RUG! LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!

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